Hearing Impairment Links To Dementia

Staying mentally alert is vital in aging that’s why it is the top concern of most adults. In a medical survey, there are identified barriers that cause mental degradation and all of which are linked to untreated hearing loss. We know that hearing loss can cause depression, social isolation, and anxiety. And if left untreated, can also lead to severe mental illness.

Patients who experience a hearing impairment are much more likely to have dementia. Studies show that these two conditions occur together. However, some experts believe that it’s the other way around. The signs of dementia and hearing are common, but for some others, the direct link seems to be unclear.

Chin-Mei Liu, PhD and Charles Tzu-Chi Lee, PhD wrote that “Hearing loss includes peripheral hearing impairment and central auditory dysfunction; both are associated with accelerated cognitive decline, cognitive impairment, and incident dementia.”

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Loss Of Important Relationship

Social isolation is the collective result of untreated hearing impairment. That’s because the process of hearing becomes challenging so many people avoid activities that require attentive interaction. The study shows that by the age of 65 years old, there are approximately one out of three people who suffer from isolation due to hearing loss.  In some unfortunate events, many may try lip reading or avoiding loud environment before eventually isolating themselves.

Decreased Cognitive Ability

Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, and Marilyn Albert, PhD, explained that “Hearing impairment may also constitute a “second hit” on the brain and thereby adversely affect the cognitive performance and increase the risk of dementia by adding to brain pathology resulting from other disorders (e.g., amyloid-beta accumulation, neurofibrillary tangles, and microvascular disease).”

People with hearing disability are using all their cognitive resources to comprehend in a conversation. As much as possible, these people want to use less brain power in the process because it’s too draining. If people use too much comprehension just by talking to someone, they eventually damage their mental function. That’s because there’s a required higher amount of effort to listen over an extensive period. With this, the exerted effort tries to steal resources from the brain’s capability to store memory and make decisions. A study concluded that the untreated hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline as well.

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Triggering Depression

In most patients who have dementia, the associated hearing loss improves the behavioral, emotional and mental symptoms. These include anxiety, hallucination, aggression, depression, and quality of life. That’s because when people suffer from hearing impairment, they begin to think negatively. From there, the isolation they need hinders them to interact and communicate with other people. It gets overwhelming as they continue to struggle on their way to recovery without any available concluded resolution.

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The Intervention

“A separate imaging study where brain changes were tracked in 126 people for up to 10 years found that those with hearing impairment had accelerated rates of brain atrophy, including in areas involved in memory. These studies suggest that it may be necessary to treat hearing loss before significant brain shrinkage occurs in order to mitigate dementia risk,” Betsy Mills, PhD, notes.

Treating hearing loss can help improve a person’s quality of life and allow him to become mentally sharp.  It reduces the risk of having mental degradation and cognitive decline. So if you or a family member noticed a relative who is not engaging in any conversation, always attempting to lip read, or struggling from hearing, it is essential to schedule a clinical test. The patient can undergo an audiogram to be able to get a clue of what type a hearing loss needs to be addressed. Only a hearing test can answer and treat the condition.

Always remember that the longer the problem goes untreated, the harder it is to correct. With that said, there’s a higher risk of the patient to develop dementia if the hearing loss gets unnoticed. So better learn the things about sensory problems associated with mental illness to help and save the lives of your loved ones.